Detecting prostate cancer can be difficult. It grows very slowly and men will not know they have it as there are no outward signs of a lump. Improving better and earlier detection can bring peace of mind to any man as he ages when issues with his prostate increases.
Fortunately, there is an improved better method of pinpointing prostate cancer with a new technology called MRI-US fusion targeted biopsy.
Traditional diagnostic tools used for prostate cancer detection
There are several traditional methods used by urologists to determine whether a man has prostate cancer or not.
The digital rectal exam is one such traditional method. The problem with this diagnostic tool is probing with a finger will only be able to access just part of the prostate gland making it more likely to miss a tumor.
The standard prostate- specific antigen blood test or PSA measures levels of a protein that will rise when prostate cancer is present. But this test has run into problems as an elevated PSA level does not necessarily indicate cancer. PSA levels rise with age and other conditions besides cancer can elevate it.
Another diagnostic tool used is transrectal ultrasound. During this procedure a small probe is inserted into the rectum and sound waves provide a picture of the prostate, measuring its size and looking for tumors, calcifications or any enlargements of the prostate. The problem is the image is not distinct enough to tell cancerous from normal prostate tissue. Therefore random biopsy will be done in which a series of needles (between 12 and 24) are poked into different areas of the prostate gland, guided by ultrasound, hoping one of the needles will find the cancerous tumor. Random biopsies can miss harmful tumors while hitting tiny low-risk, indolent cancers leading to overtreatment of disease better left alone.
MRI-US fusion biopsy
MRI-US fusion biopsy is an effective tool in detecting clinically significant prostate cancer. What happens is the patient will first have a MRI scan where a radiologist reviews it and will take note of areas that look possibly cancerous.
Then the patient, in an outpatient setting, will have an ultrasound probe inserted into the rectum which produces a detailed 3-D ultrasound/MRI view of the prostate. The MRI scan is much more detailed than an ultrasound scan giving a far clearer view to target where a biopsy needs to be done. This allows the surgeon to precisely guide the needles to suspicious looking lesions rather than poking around hoping to hit a cancerous area.
The advantage of MRI-US fusion biopsy over traditional methods is it is far more likely to find a clinically significant prostate lesion than many clinically insignificant lesions. This means less likelihood of unnecessary treatment of areas that don’t need it. This is huge for men with small, slow-growing prostate tumors who are on active surveillance or watchful waiting meaning they will not have to endure the possibility of several unneeded biopsies.
Approximately 700,000 men in the United States with elevated PSA levels often have to face repeated prostate biopsies. With the advanced technology of the MRI-US fusion biopsy providing improved information to begin with, this number can be reduced leading to less invasive and redundant biopsies. This greatly enhances the chance of finding a cancerous tumor at an earlier stage where it can be treated successfully.